Can I Change the Name of My LLC?

What’s in a name? Sometimes your business needs a new name. Changing your LLC’s name is a simple process that involves filing articles of amendment, notifying the IRS, and updating documents.

By , J.D. · New York University School of Law
Updated by Amanda Hayes, Attorney · University of North Carolina School of Law

Changing the name of your limited liability company (LLC) isn't difficult. Making the change mostly involves filing paperwork with different agencies and notifying interested parties.

While the process is straightforward, you'll still want to make sure you take all the necessary steps to change your name properly. Be prepared to change your bank accounts and business licenses and notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and others of the change.

Reasons to Change Your Business Name

A company can want to change its name for different reasons:

  • Trademark dispute. If your business name infringes on someone else's trademark, you might be forced to change your business name. For instance, World Wrestling Entertainment used to be called World Wrestling Federation until a trademark dispute with the World Wildlife Fund caused the organization to change its name.
  • Negative publicity. If your business name is associated with negative publicity—such as a lawsuit or unpopular business move—a name change can help give your business a clean slate.
  • Business expansion. If your company starts to offer new products and services that your old name doesn't reflect, you might want to change your name to mirror that growth. For example, Apple used to be called Apple Computers. The name was changed to reflect Apple's expanding offering of electronic goods.
  • Ownership change. If your company is named after one of its owners and they die or sell their share of the business, it might be appropriate to also change your LLC's name.
  • Poor market performance. If you find that your company's name confuses customers or isn't very memorable or catchy, then it might be worth rebranding.

Whatever the reason, businesses change their names every day. If you need to change your LLC's name, then you'll need to follow the steps to transition to your new name and retire the old one.

Steps to Change Your LLC's Name

If you need to change your LLC's name, then you'll need to first choose a name that'll replace the old one. Once you decide on a name, you can start the process of officially changing your business name.

1. Choose a New Business Name

Your first order of business is to choose a new business name. Changing your name isn't impossible but it does take time and effort to accomplish. So you'll want to make sure your new name will be lasting. Besides making sure your name is marketable, you'll want to make sure it's available for you to use.

Search LLC state databases. In most states, your name can't be the same as, or too similar to, another LLC or corporation name already registered to do business in the state. Most secretary of state websites have an online business name search tool you can use to see if the name you want is already taken.

Follow LLC legal naming requirements. Your new name will have to comply with any legal requirements for an LLC name in the state where you're registered, such as containing the words "limited liability company" or the initials "LLC." Check your secretary of state's website for your state's rules.

Search other databases. In addition to searching your state corporate database, you should look at federal trademark registrations on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. Also do a quick search of business registries, social media sites, and domain names.

You might have to cycle through a few name options before you find one that works and is available to use.

2. Obtain LLC Members' Consent

You'll have to obtain the consent of your LLC owners to change your name. Check your operating agreement to see what type of approval is required for a name change. For example, your operating agreement might say that approval of two-thirds of the LLC members is required to change the LLC's name.

If your LLC doesn't have an operating agreement or the agreement doesn't address name changes, your state LLC laws will apply. Alternatively, you can simply get approval from all of your LLC members to make sure you meet any minimum voting requirements.

Be sure to get a written resolution of the LLC members' consent to the name change. You'll want to keep a record of the resolution to document that you obtained the necessary approval for your name change.

3. File Articles of Amendment With Your State

Once you have the necessary internal approvals, you need to file a form with the state notifying them of your name change.

You can check your secretary of state's website (or the website of the state filing agency where you created your LLC) to find the form you need to file. In most states, it's called a "certificate of amendment to your articles of organization." Some states have a simplified certificate of amendment form if you're only doing a name change.

Some states allow you to file the form online while others require you to mail in a hard copy. Make sure you pay the required filing fee.

4. Update Your LLC Operating Agreement

Don't forget to update your operating agreement with your new business name. Your operating agreement is the document that establishes the rules and procedures for how your company is run. It's important that it accurately reflects the correct, up-to-date business information.

5. Notify the IRS and Other Tax Agencies

Once your new name is approved by the state, you'll need to notify the IRS of the change. How you give notice will depend on how your LLC is taxed:

  • When taxed as a sole proprietorship. If you're a single-member LLC taxed as a sole proprietorship, you can write the IRS at the location where you file your return informing them of your name change.
  • When taxed as a partnership. If you're a multi-member LLC taxed as a partnership, you can mark the appropriate box on your current year's Form 1065 filing. If you've already filed your Form 1065 for the year, you can write the IRS at the address where you file your partnership return.
  • When taxed as a corporation. LLCs taxed like a corporation can mark the appropriate box on their current year's Form 1120 filing (Form 1120-S for S corporations). If you've already filed your Form 1120 or 1120-S for the year, you'll have to write the IRS at the address where you file your return.

If you're only changing your name, you won't need to apply for a new employer identification number (EIN).

You'll also have to notify your state and any local taxing agencies of your name change. Be prepared to show them a copy of a certificate of name change from the state approving the change.

6. Update Licenses, Bank Accounts, Customers, and Others

If you have any business licenses or permits, make sure you notify the appropriate agencies of your name change. You'll also need to change your business name on your accounts and documents, including:

Don't forget to let creditors, customers, suppliers and vendors, and anyone else you do business with know that you have a new name.

In all cases, changing your name doesn't affect any of the underlying documents, contracts, or accounts. So there's no need to close and reopen accounts, obtain new permits or licenses, or resign contracts—everything remains in full force and effect.

7. Update Your LLC's Website, Social Media, and Marketing Materials

Don't forget all the other places where your business name appears like your:

  • website
  • social media
  • business forms (online and physical)
  • letterhead
  • brochures
  • business cards, and
  • signage.

You'll need to change all of these to reflect your new business name.

Alternative to a Name Change: File for a DBA

If completing these steps sounds like a lot of work, you have another option. Instead of changing your business's legal name, you can file for a fictitious name—also known as a "doing business as" (DBA).

A DBA gives you the authority to do business using a different name without having to legally change your company name. Filing for a DBA is a relatively simple and inexpensive process that you do through your local city, county, or state agency that handles fictitious name filings.

If you get a fictitious name, you'll have to check with your bank as to whether you need to set up a new bank account or if the DBA name can be added to your existing account. You'll also need to change your marketing and branded materials like your website, social media, and signage. For the IRS, permitting agencies, vendors, and others, your business entity's legal name remains the same.

Speaking to a Business or Trademark Attorney

If you're familiar with performing name searches and filing amendments, you can likely do the work yourself. But if you want to be sure that your new name won't get you into any legal trouble or you don't want to file the documents yourself, consider talking to an attorney.

A trademark attorney can perform a name search for you to make sure that your desired name or a similar name hasn't already been claimed. A business attorney can help you file the required paperwork and ensure that you've made all the necessary amendments and notifications.

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